When Harry Met Salary: 4 Compensation Negotiation Situations

Guess what the most stressful part of the interview process is? Is it interviewing? Setting up a time that works for everyone? The sweaty, small office where you have to sit for an hour while you determine “cultural fit”?

Nope. It’s salary negotiation. While it can be simple (you offer a number, they accept, we’re all happy), most times, especially with purple squirrel jobs and high stakes negotiations, it can be a tightrope walk. Let’s talk about some situations you may face when negotiating salary.


You’re interviewing a great candidate over the phone and seriously considering bringing this person in. Then, when you begin to ask what time next week they’re open, they blurt out “So, what is the compensation for this position?” You instantly take a step back, surprised they popped the question so soon.

This can bother a lot of traditional recruiters and HR Managers but there are lots of reasons not to take offense. First, consider how much debt many entry-level workers are shouldering when they enter the workforce, as the average graduate from the class of 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt. Before entering what could be a month or months long job search, they need to know what they can expect to make. Second, if this is a hard to fill position, consider jumping off that high horse to consider whether you need this person more than you need to put them in their place. Plus, many people can avoid this question cropping up at all by posting a salary or tightly defined salary range on the job posting itself.

Tweet This: How to avoid awkward compensation negotiation blunders:

If you find yourself in this situation, mention a range and then mention that if you schedule an in-person interview and that goes well, you’ll include the exact salary in their offer letter. Bonus points if you mention when they can expect that offer letter.

Read More: 5 Compensation Communication Tips


The interview went well, the group meeting was a success but you’re still unsure if the world’s coolest candidate is actually in the price range you’ve been given for the position. But because every market, company and candidate is different, it’s good to know how to find that number so you don’t end up with your heart broken.

We’re starting this conversation with the idea that you are paying at least market rate for your positions and have some rope to play with when it comes to extending an offer. In fact, 80% of organizations expect negotiations and leave wiggle room while negotiating. Again, with difficult to fill positions or very senior level roles, you may have to do some proactive research to present the best compensation plan. Look to competitive job posts, sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com and market rates for the job you’re trying to fill. If you’re filling a position that has recently become vacant, find out how much money the company or department is losing by not having someone in that job. While you may not use this information immediately, it may come in handy later if your perfect candidate comes in $30,000 higher than you’re willing to pay.

Tweet This: Are you part of the 80% of organizations who expect negotiations and leave wiggle room while negotiating?

Let your candidate know that you need the information so you can make a fair offer and perhaps even advocate for them with the powers that be. If your candidate gives you a number and it’s way out of reach, make sure they know about the research you’ve compiled. Explain what market rates are, what your competitors are paying for a similar position and work with them to find out where the difference is. If they can justify a higher salary, you may be able to work with their numbers and yours to convince the higher ups.

Take it a step further: Learn the Pros and Cons of Tying Compensation to Performance


There is no more stressful situation than offering a candidate below market rate for a position but in the real world, it happens quite often. Of course, doing your homework as indicated above can help you during negotiations with your own bosses but once you’re stuck with a number, it’s very hard to change.

A situation where you may have to offer a great candidate less than what they are currently making is what separates the real recruiters from the rest of us. So how do you do it? The same way you source an incredibly hard to find candidate. By doing your research (where do they live, what is important to them, what kind of work do they want to be doing) and being totally transparent.

Tweet This: What are your best tactics for coming up with fair compensation for new candidates?

Perhaps you can’t get your company to cough up more dough, but it’s possible you can get them to bend on vacation time, half days, work-flex hours or extra perks. The key is to find out what perks matter most to the candidate you’re after. If they value their freedom, it’s possible that a work from home position will persuade them to take a salary cut. If they’re making a higher salary but paying through the nose for benefits, they might look at a pay cut for insurance that will cover their needs. A recent survey by Glassdoor showed that 79% of employees actually prefer better benefits to a higher salary. In fact, something as simple as your location might make a candidate change her mind. Don’t think the size of the paycheck, think quality of life.


Can you really blame candidates for asking for the moon with their salary? Hardly, when every article from Fast Company to Inc. tells them to ask “for what they’re worth.” Nearly 40% of candidates will negotiate salary when receiving their first job offer. But what do you do when a candidate asks for twice what they’re worth?

Tweet This: Nearly 40% of candidates will negotiate salary during job offers. Are you prepared?

Simply show them your research and ask to see theirs. If they can make a convincing case, great, you have some research to do. If not (probably not), you can help give them a reality check and paint a picture of their very real contributions to the organization. For example, you might be able to show a salesperson just how much the average sales engineer at your company brings in and how that impacts the bottom line. You can also bring their attention to other perks like a company car or use of an administrative assistant that can help their earning power soar. Finally, you’re the expert in your company and the only thing better than a large salary is a clear path to getting a larger salary. Show them how people in the company have gone from their position to another one and tell them how long it took.

Negotiating salary is, by nature, stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve done solid research, created a range for your company (that sits in candidate view if possible) and considered the candidate’s point of view when negotiating, it can be a win-win for everyone. 


Recent Posts: